Victorian London - Transport - Roads - Paving - street signs

Streets bearing the same names can be found in every district. There are at least twenty Prince's Streets, Queen Streets, Charles Streets, etc. Then each appellation is subdivided into lane, road, place, terrace, row, etc. and even these are not necessarily adjacent. The street may be at one end of London, the terrace at the other. It is most dreadfully confusing. When at last you have located your street your troubles are not over. Numbers are carelessly painted, sometimes illegible, or they may lurk playfully round the corner of some other street as though having a game of hide and seek. It is impossible to remember a house however often you have been to it as all the others are identical, and the whole row seems to stare at you in derision with its shutterless windows like glassy unblinking eyes. The name of the street is not indicated in a uniform way as it is in Paris, but just haphazard - sometimes on one side only and in a variety of letterings. As other inscriptions are also to be seen on walls and houses the unwary foreigner is liable to make most ludicrous mistakes. The adventures of the wretched Frenchman who most carefully copied out "Commit No Nuisance" and gave it as his address are too well known to bear repetition, but there is no reason why the story should not be perfectly authentic.

Francis Wey, A Frenchman Sees the English in the Fifties, 1935

The following report was presented by the surveyor to the Commissioners : I beg to report that, in pursuance of your instructions, I have permitted Messrs. Powell, of the Whitefriars Glass Works to fix tablets bearing the names of streets in certain of the public lamps within the city of London.
    These tablets are formed of glass roughed upon one side, having the letters which compose the names of the streets impressed upon the with other side. The letters are filled up with black metallic colour, burnt in the general surface of the tablets, and the names of the streets are easily discernible at night when the lamps are lighted.
    The public lamps in which the tablets have been placed are situated at the S.W. end of Cornhill, the S.W. end of King-street and the N.E. end of Queen-street, Cheapside; the corners of Ludgate-hill, Fleet-street and Farringdon-street, and at the southern end of the Old Jewry.
    They appear to answer their purpose exceedingly well, and are, I think, likely to be very serviceable in directing strangers after day-light.
    There is a scarcely a street or public thoroughfare within the city of London which is not already provided with street tablets, and the public lamps, owing to the narrowness of the footpaths, are frequently so near to them, that they can be read after daylight, but there are many localities in which these tablets can be placed with advantage to the public lamps.
    It is not, I think, probable that tablets so placed will in this metropolis supersede entirely the ordinary street tablets, as the size of the letter, owing to the dimensions of the lamps, is very limited, but as their price is so very small, it becomes well worthy of consideration whether they might not be used extensively as adjuncts to the present tablets.
    ... The members expressed the opinion that the plan adopted by the surveyor would be very serviceable in directing the foreigners and other strangers with whom the metropolis will soon abound.

 
Times, March 19 1851